Urgent, I need some musical direction! It only just occurred to me that …shock, horror… not everyone likes Australian hip hop music. As a full blood Aussie, I was slightly appalled to hear the snorting laughter echoing around the office when I proudly played one of my favourite choons. Apparently to non-Australians it sounds ‘comical’, or ‘just like Eminem but worse’. Has my flawless music taste been tainted with a scandalous love for yobbos rapping about what it’s like to be a white, middle class, private school educated mutha fucka? With no word of a lie, 90 per cent of my male and female friends in Oz know the words religiously to old and new classics by Hilltop Hoods, Drapht, Butterfingers and Bliss n Eso and we patriotically shout them from the rooftops in an exaggerated accent with one hand on our heart and the other making a vaguely gangsta hand gesture. But I bloody love it.
Aussie hip hop began in the early 1980s but took a good decade get started. Still today, it is very much an underground scene with very few commercial hits and scarce international recognition- generally most Oz hip hoppers are on independent labels run by the artists themselves. By the early 2000s the interest in hip hop had grown in Australia and the Australian Record Association Industry (ARIA = Aussie version of the BRITs) decided to add a new category in their annual awards in the form of ’Best Urban Release’. Hilltop Hoods dominated this award with their album The Hard Road and for this reason are the pioneers of the genre. If you’ve heard of anyone in my list, it will be Hilltops. Comprising of MC Suffa, MC Pressure and DJ Debris, they have been in the game for the better part of two decades and have actually toured internationally, playing at festivals including T in the Park, Oxygen and The Great Escape. If you like what you hear, Hilltops are in the UK and Europe this summer: http://hilltophoods.com/hth/shows/
Another gang who have been walking the mean streets since the dawn of the genre are Bliss N Eso, who most would agree are second in line for the hip hop throne. When bands like this began in the late nineties, they were under fire in the industry for being an example of how Australia had become so Americanized. When people began locking and popping to jams inspired by the likes of Public Enemy it was clear that it wouldn’t be easy for Australia to distinguish it’s own hip hop identity. However it has been greatly localized with colloquial slang, political and cultural views and that sore thumb accent that we claim is annoying but we all secretly love. Bliss N Eso won an APRA award in 2009 for ‘Best Urban Work’ for this tune about global warming and ‘bergs melting’ that makes me feel mistily patriotic.